It’s been a tough year, in some ways. And in others it’s been wildly predictable as our world got very small being locked in an apartment in Valencia for months on end. When we moved to Valencia we didn’t have cable TV. We cut the cable cord and managed our media viewing via internet. Buying and jettisoning channels based on what was trending at the time. We had CBS ALL access, and then we didn’t. Hulu, then no Hulu. Showtime when new seasons of Billions or Shameless came on. Then got rid of them. Same with Netflix on and off. But we never had US news that we could put on and keep in the background as we did other things. I’m pretty sure this saved our sanity while in lock down.
Now that we have a cable package from our Portuguese internet/mobile provider, we have so many news channels in english that it’s hard not to be connected all the time to whats going on in the US. And, lets face it, there’s A LOT going on. BLM, the election, COVID. So much shifting under our feet, and it was all overwhelming even before we could flip to one of 25 news channels, both based in the US and around the globe, all broadcasting in english, all the time. Ugh.
We got our Portuguese mobile phones last week and I realized, after having cable news for just one week, that I needed a different strategy for news consumption. I used to watch CNN or MSNBC from the US via their websites, when I wanted to. And I’d get some of my US news from Twitter or a few other global outlets, as I’ve posted here. But it was always on my terms. When I looked. Mostly in lockdown we watched entertainment. It saved our sanity. So I’ve made a new commitment and it’s required some housecleaning. No social media on my phone. Whether its my US phone (I almost never check that anyway), my Spanish phone, or my new Portuguese phone. Nope. If I want to check social media I’ll do it on my laptop – I’m only on Twitter now anyway, after boycotting FB and Instagram (due to their shenanigans) long, long ago.
And no more news apps on my phone. No more Reddit. No more Apple news. It was interfering with my life. I wasn’t looking up at a cafe -now that we can go. Looking around. I need to be more present. And finally, no leaving our newly acquired access to news on TV as background noise. It’s only been a week but it’s like allowing toxic sludge to leak into my brain. I don’t need to listen to it on a loop as I clean bathrooms or mop the floor. Enough.
If I want to see the news I’ll sit down and watch it. If I want other news I’ll open my laptop. I know. It sounds like I’m somehow going backwards. A media dinosaur. There are so many ways to get information – why would I limit myself? But I can’t do it anymore. I can’t care about everything that comes down the pike, 24/7, all the time. I’d already turned my notifications off long ago. But it wasn’t enough. I know it’s bad in the world. I know my country is on the precipice of doom. Potentially burning its soul to the ground. I know a deadly virus is raging. Believe me, I know. I will vote and do my part. But I can’t live on the edge of disaster every moment of every day. It’s not healthy.
So while we have more choice now in our media consumption, yet three phones and cable TV, I’m making a different choice. One that has me taking my laptop down to the local cafe and writing in the afternoon. Spending time each day listening to music playing, doing some modified yoga in the sun room. And sitting outside and listening to the ocean.
I spoke to Emilie recently. She’s started college in the US remotely, while still living in Portland at my Mom’s (and her boyfriend’s house) and she’s managing things pretty well – as I knew she would. One thing she’s chosen to do is turn off the news. She’s overwhelmed and she can’t take it anymore, while she navigates the world as a newly minted adult and college freshman. And she’s right. Frantic, unhealthy minds can’t fix the world. Solutions will come from her generation, and the best ones will be well-considered, calm and rational. I need more well-considered calm in my own life. So I’ll take a page out of her book and turn down the volume. Do I still care deeply? Of course. But I’ll pay attention to one thing at a time. I think my mental and physical health will thank me for it.
Non-partisan Reminder: If you’re a US expat living overseas you can still vote. You can go out to the voter website for your county (where your official US address is located) and sign up to be an Overseas Voter. Mine allows us to vote via email – but if yours sends a ballot by mail you’ll want to get registered ASAP. You can check out the rules and get assistance here.